Former vaccine chief returns as NHS prepares for winter

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard today announced that Dr Emily Lawson is returning to lead the NHS COVID vaccination programme.

Professor Willett has overseen the launch of the boosters programme after Dr Lawson was seconded to Downing Street as director of the Number 10 delivery unit.

Dr Lawson is stepping back into the post as Professor Sir Keith Willett resumes his role in the NHS COVID Response, leading the health service’s response to the pandemic, ahead of winter.

NHS staff have delivered more than 4.5 million boosters and third jabs in the four weeks since the booster programme began, including more than 255,000 yesterday.

Amanda Pritchard also revealed today that four out of five care homes have now been visited or have a booster clinic booked, as the NHS intensifies the latest phase of the vaccination campaign.

Dr Lawson ran the NHS vaccine programme from last November, shortly before the NHS made history by delivering the first COVID jab outside of a clinical trial, until her secondment. She is expected to return to Downing Street next year.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “It’s great news that Emily has agreed to return to lead the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme as our response to the pandemic enters another crucial phase.

“Vaccines are a key line of defence against COVID and Emily’s wealth of experience, skill and her knowledge of the programme will be a huge asset as we prepare for winter.

“Keith will now return to the COVID incident team for this critical period, when we know this cruel virus spreads more easily, having led the operational response last winter, the most challenging time in NHS history.

“I want to thank him for leading the vaccines team through the last few months and ensuring that millions of people could get their lifesaving COVID jab.

“Vaccination is the best way to avoid catching COVID or becoming seriously ill so if you are eligible for a booster, or have not yet had a jab, please do come forward and take up the offer”.

Dr Emily Lawson, said: “The next phase of the vaccination programme is extremely important – we know that the vaccine is helping us to save lives and so we must focus all of our efforts on rolling out the booster campaign to everyone eligible, as well as ensuring that everyone who has not yet had their first jab, including young people, get the chance to come forward.

“I am once again really looking forward to working with Amanda and other wonderful colleagues in the NHS on the challenge ahead and ensuring that the public are provided with maximum protection from the virus this winter”.

Professor Keith Willett, said: “Over the last few years I have worked with colleagues across the NHS leading the preparations for EU Exit, the response to COVID and recently the vaccination programme and I remain humbled and astounded by the commitment of local, regional and national NHS staff despite the relentless demands made of them”.

Since Margaret Keenan received the first COVID jab last year, the NHS has delivered 84 million doses with four in five people having received at least two.

The NHS COVID vaccination programme is contacting people as they become eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.

Anyone who has not received an invite after a week of becoming eligible can arrange an appointment through the National Booking Service.